Mark Oliver Everett is cheering up. Freed from hopeless relationships, his ninth studio album, Tomorrow Morning, finds the notoriously moody troubadour spinning some surprisingly sweet sentiments. While E might have shed his tongue-in-cheek misanthropy, his trademark spiky songwriting still remains driven by its own twisted internal logic. An album awash in electronics and found sounds, Tomorrow Morning is as warm as it is weird and the perfect listen for anyone who wrongly believes happy people are all the same.
Tomorrow Morning immediately sets itself apart as one of the Eels’ sunnier records, but that status will probably come at the expense of the rest of the band’s catalog being characterized as dark and brooding. Granted, the music of Mark Oliver Everett (aka E) has chronicled some truly dark patches of his life, and his songs have often reflected that fact. But he’s also a songwriter, to these ears at least, who’s also sought the beauty in life.
Just when you thought it couldn't get any darker for Mark Oliver Everett (aka E)...it doesn't. On the third Eels album in 14 months, Everett completes a trilogy that began with the rockist Hombre Lobo in June of 2009, which addressed the ravenous hunger and cost of desire. In January 2010, End Times detailed in a low-key and acoustic manner, often in sometimes embarrassingly intimate terms, the shattering toll of a broken relationship.
The last of a trilogy of albums written around the time of Mark "E" Everett's divorce, Tomorrow Morning presents Everett as you've rarely heard him before: happy, fulfilled, almost optimistic. The bottomless pit of despondence that generally provides his subject matter has been supplanted by, well, not joy, exactly, but a recognition that life doesn't always suck. "For all the wear and tear, I look OK," he marvels on What I Have to Offer; on the crunchy, electro-punky Baby Loves Me, he decides that even if "the record company hates me", things are fine because "my baby loves me/ Unlikely but true".
Purportedly the final installment of a concept album trilogy that began with 2009’s Hombre Lobo, Eels’s ninth studio album, Tomorrow Morning, is aimed at delivering an uplifting, grand bow to a somber saga. Ambitious stuff, for sure, but somehow the intent behind the band’s latest work never truly matches up with the results: Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire failed at conveying what frontman Mark Everett called a “dreadful, intense want,” and the new album is no different in its inability to deliver sincere emotion. Pushed as a radical, electronic alternative to the unadorned sounds of both Hombre Lobo and 2010’s End Times, the polished synths and beats of Tomorrow Morning are hardly revolutionary.
One of the most bookish artists to rise from 90s alt-pop, Mark Everett (aka E or Eels) affects the seriocomic deadpan of Daniel Clowes, but really he's the Rick Moody of indie rock. Both are existential mopes who did their best and career-defining work in the 1990s, but have spent the better part of the last decade chasing self-indulgences, becoming too cerebral and too coldly distant to connect with an audience. Both regularly overthink their art to the point of strangling it of all life.
Tomorrow Morning completes a trilogy of albums by Eels, each released six months apart, that explore the emotional roller coaster that is life, the universe and everything (but mostly intimate personal relationships and love). Hombre Lobo delved into our species’ raw emotions with raw energy and soothingly calm introspection. End Times examined despair from failed relationships and an uncertain future with a starker, more desolate tone.
A more playful, relaxed listen than its predecessor, but a little slack of execution. James Skinner 2010 On Eels’ ninth album, Mark ‘E’ Oliver Everett explores many of the themes that have long cropped up throughout his oeuvre, from loneliness through the idea of what it is to be happy – a loving relationship? Artistry? – to his lyrical staple of birds. Album highlight and first song proper here is entitled I’m a Hummingbird, and comes over like a loose cousin of his last record’s Little Bird, except that where Everett was formerly dejected and alone, here he casts himself the bird, “beautiful and free.